By Tom Campbell
Editor-Publisher, Western New York Labor Today
BUFFALO (PAI)—Even before Democratic President Joe Biden came to Buffalo to talk privately with families of victims of the racist shooting in May, AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler stepped forward to offer them, and the traumatized city, organized labor’s aid.
Tops Grocery Store, where the shooting occurred, is a unionized workplace, represented by United Food and Commercial Workers District 1.
Western New York Area Labor Federation President Peter DeJesus reported Shuler “reached out to me and told me we have the full weight” of the federation “behind us,” he said. “She wanted to let us know she was thinking about us in the wake of what happened and was ready and on hand for whatever support we needed.”
DeJesus told WNYLaborToday.com the day after the shooting that United Food and Commercial Workers District 1 Director Mark Manna informed him no Tops workers, whom the union represents, were killed. Manna told DeJesus “some” had been injured. UFCW is offering aid to the families of the victims, including counseling.
“Thank you to everyone that reached out to assist UFCW members employed by Tops markets on Jefferson Ave today,” Manna posted on his Facebook page. “I spoke with many of the workers today and they also appreciate all the support they are receiving from the community. Our condolences go out to the victims of this senseless tragedy.”
“We are deeply saddened and outraged by the ruthless killings at the Tops Store on Jefferson Avenue in Buffalo. This senseless attack, motivated by hate, was pure evil,” said a statement released by UFCW Local One. “Our hearts go out to the innocent victims and their families. We pray for our Members at Tops that witnessed this horrific act of terror. Our heart-filled gratitude is expressed to the First Responders and to every single neighbor of the store that was impacted by this unimaginable tragedy.”
District 1 added on its Facebook page: “We are deeply saddened and outraged by the ruthless killings at the Tops store on Jefferson Avenue in Buffalo. This senseless attack, motivated by hate, was pure evil.”
“We’re discussing a mass mobilization to let people know they are not fighting this alone. We want our members to go home (safe) every night and they must have that opportunity,” DeJesus added.
Peyton Gendron, 18, drove three hours from the Binghamton area to the Jefferson Avenue Tops Supermarket in a predominantly Black neighborhood on May 14. Dressed in military garb with bullet-proof armor, he carried out a murder spree with a Bushmaster XM-15 semiautomatic rifle. Gendron killed 10 shoppers and a retired Buffalo police officer, serving as a security guard, who tried to stop him.
Standing outside the supermarket, a tearful Manna told a WKBW-TV interviewer the Tops workers “are essential workers who just want to serve their community and get a paycheck … As union representatives, we want to make sure we do everything for them.” He quoted one surviving uninjured worker as saying the scene “was like something out of a war movie … It appears the shooter came here on a mission.”
“This is a dark day for every single worker and things have got to change,” said Manna.
To donate to union workers injured in the Buffalo shooting, send contributions to:
Local One Relief Fund
5911 Airport Road
Oriskany, NY 13424
One hundred percent of the funds collected will be given to the members of the Jefferson Avenue store, and a donation will be given to slain security guard Aaron Salter’s family.